A PhD student in Education, who is a Clarendon-New College scholar of University of Oxford, posed this question in his letter to the editor: “Streamless schools — a seamless transition or half-formed idea?”
He says liberating students from the “shackles of streaming” is laudable, but due to the constraints faced by certain schools in terms of resources, students would continue to be “streamed”.
He adds a range of specialised subjects cannot be offered if there are not enough qualified teachers or good facilities to support going streamless.
The writer’s observation is food for thought. Ever since Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik proposed the transition to “streamless schools”, there have been wide-ranging feedback from various quarters.
The logic is that streaming had resulted in a mismatch, where “science-inclined” students ended up in arts, and the “arts-inclined” were streamed into science. Critics decry streaming as outdated.
They claim it benefits teachers more as it makes classroom management easier. Students also risk being labelled “smart” or “dumb”, depending on the class they’ve been streamed into.
Doing away with streaming would put Malaysian schools on a par with other countries that are moving towards 21st century learning.
Students have the choice to mix their subjects based on their interests, and they would not be seen as lesser just because they wish to study non-science subjects.
Education is a right and, therefore, all children should have the right to it. Education, as Dr Maszlee puts it, “should not be compartmentalised, but integrated”.
This Leader believes there is more to it than just streaming students according to the subjects they favour. A thorough discussion among stakeholders is needed.
Parents and children, too, need to be roped in. A survey would serve well for this, but don’t take too long.
Granted, going streamless would not require an overhaul of the current system. Still, a studied look at streamless and seamless systems in other countries would be instructional.
Finland’s education system, for instance, is considered one of the best in the world. Japan’s too is billed “incredibly cool”.
Both do not have streaming. Finland doesn’t divide its basic education into elementary and junior highs. Instead, it offers single-structure education for nine years.
Similarly, children in Japanese schools do not take exams until Grade Four or 10 years old.
The first three years is to establish good manners and develop character. Children are taught moral values and qualities like grit, self-control and justice.
Some of these features can be incorporated in our education system. An education structure that strives for wider and wholesome learning would produce students of character, respectful of others, compassionate and empathetic.
Presently, some of our youths are infuriatingly polarised. This has been precipitated by cursory reading, insufficient thinking, plus spontaneous reactions at furious speed and tone.
It is a given that education planners should unlock the true potential of our children, but they should not derail them by foisting on them premature tracks.
Above all, our education system must produce children who want to be Malaysians. To celebrate their diversity.
To not rush to Facebook and savage either the vice-chancellor or the boisterous and overzealous graduands.